A Warm Welcome to All Our New Subscribers
This newsletter's readership (or at least, our subscriber list) has just increased quite dramatically--mainly due to all the folks who filled out the sign-up sheets GrandLakeNeighbors.org distributed at Lakefest August 1 and 2. Thanks are due especially to Renee Kardener who does amazing work armed only with a clipboard and ballpoint pen and also to Sue Lehman who used her public relations expertise to make me sound like the reincarnation of Herb Caen (only better). If I don't live up to the overblown expectations of those of you who are reading this newsletter for the first time, I promise to try harder next time.
Farmers Market News
One new subscriber merits an especially warm welcome. Nessia Berner is the new manager of the Grand Lake Farmers Market effective this past Saturday assuming the post that Jim Fenton had occupied for seven or eight years. As Jerry Barclay noted in the minutes from last week's meeting of his Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Committee, there will be a period of adjustment as she gets to know the local community and the Grand Lake Market vendors but she's made a very fine first impression. We are looking forward to working with her to resolve some of the ongoing maintenance issues that SPFMAC has been raising and to continue building on the market's astounding popularity. If you have comments or suggestions you'd like to share, look for her in the information booth or email her at email@example.com.
As as aside, the Grand Lake Market has some very unusual features (including the park setting) that make it quite special--but its popularity is hardly unique. Farmers markets are popping up all over. Several years ago, my wife and I were in San Diego visiting our son and daughter-in-law. One Saturday morning, we went looking for a Farmers Market, but there were basically few to none anywhere in the San Diego area. That number is now up to about thirty with the newest opening next week two blocks from my kids' home. It's in a park with lot of play structures, lawns and trees. I left a comment in response to an online article about the market saying: "Congratulations! Based on our experience with the Grand Lake Market here in Oakland, you're in for a treat."
There are obviously some very diverse reasons for the emergence of all these new markets. Number one has to be the opportunity to purchase really fresh, wholesome fruits, vegetables, baked goods and prepared foods directly from the source. But an equally essential part of that appeal is developing a relationship with the people who actually farm the land.
Let me cite just two examples--the first is a brand new vendor at the Grand Lake Market and the second is one of its charter members going back to the bad old days under the freeway when the patrons were sometimes outnumbered by the sellers.
The new guy on the block really isn't. David Little from Little Organic Farms has been dry-farming in various parts of Marin County around Tomales for more than fifteen years. His specialty is potatoes and he harvests more than twenty varieties including ones with yellow, white, purple and red flesh--not to mention, the Fingerlings. Tell David how you want to prepare them and he'll tell you which varieties are best for that purpose. In addition to the potatoes, David also offers select greens and veggies including Sunchokes.
Brad Gates from Wild Boar Farms is, on the other hand, one of a handful of Grand Lake Market veterans who are close to earning their ten-year pins. When he first showed up under the freeway, with truckloads of unusual and sometimes downright ugly tomatoes, lots of folks like myself scratched their heads and wondered what the hell was going on. Although I'm a long-time antiques dealers, the concept of "heirloom" tomatoes seemed more than a bit foreign. At least here in this corner of the world, Brad started a movement that has literally blossomed. For more information about Brad's approach to farming and to tomatoes in particular, I'd highly recommend an interview posted in May 2007 by Mychal McCabe, a neighborhood resident and Grand Lake Farmers Market patron who bills his blog as the "Happy Consumptive".
Although we don't typically plug businesses outside our Grand Lake neighborhood, we'll happily make an exception for the good people from Souley Vegan which got its original start at the Grand Lake Market where they continue to have a presence. They're long-anticipated restaurant has just opened at 301 Broadway near Jack London Square and continues to get rave reviews.
Oaklandish Salsa by the Lake Festival
In last month's newsletter, I made a big pitch for you, dear readers to attend the Salsa Fest at Splash Pad Park. If you missed it, I don't want you to feel bad, but do check out the photos I posted on Flickr. What do those images have in common? In virtually each and everyone, participants and spectators alike are smiling and having a great time. It was really a treat to see our neighborhood park being used for such a wonderful occasion and a big round of applause to Oaklandish for organizing and funding this event. We look forward to encore performances.
Grand/Lakeshore Collective Music Series
One of the photos in the Salsa by the Lake set is of Connie from Connie's Cantina. She told me serendipitously, "They should do this every Saturday on Grand Avenue".
As it turned out, that plus more was already in the works thanks to the heroic efforts of Stephen Duffy, an Erie Street neighbor and lead vocalist from That Man Fantastic. The Collective Music Series that he organized debuted August 8 and will run through October. Generally, four groups of musicians will be performing every Saturday from 1:00 to about 4:00 pm--two on Grand and two on Lakeshore. I've posted a few photos taken on the first two Saturdays.
What is really remarkable is the outpouring of support from local musicians who have enthusiastically agreed to participate mostly for the joy of performing before an appreciative audience. These are mostly top-notch musicians. To cite one example, Alma Desnuda performed August 8 in front of Ford's Fine Furniture. The following week, they were featured at Yoshi's in San Francisco. This Saturday, August 29, they can be heard in front of Arizmendi. Other groups performing this week include boatclub in front of Vine on Lakeshore; That Man Fantastic in front of Ford's Fine Furniture; and the Rafael Ramirez Latin Jazz Trio in front of Connie's Cantina. Connie is going to set up some tables and chairs on the sidewalk and will have a wide selection of Mexican beers on ice, including my favorite, Negra Modelo.
The local businesses that are providing electricity as well as food and drink include Mezze, Arizmendi, Miss Saigon, Ford's Fine Furniture, and Connie's Cantina. In addition, both GABA and the Lakeshore BID are offering their support. Stephen also has a long list of supporters that have popped up from the community--most prominently, Rachel Broadwin who donated a shade canopy as did Cheryl and Carlos Rubinstein.
The calendar for upcoming performances (along with last-minute updates) should be available on the GrandLakeNeighbors.org website.
Last month, we reported on a number of store closures and unfortunately, that toll continues to climb. Ursula Calderon recently shuttered the doors at Micio Mambo, but will still be offering a unique line of animal and cruelty-free, environmentally friendly products online.
Busy Body's closure was not totally unexpected as the chain has been facing bankruptcy hearings for quite some time. On the other hand, the For Lease sign at Vine was something of a surprise.
Although, understandably there is a lot of angst over these store closings, the situation with restaurants seems to exemplify the axion that every time a door closes, another one opens. A case in point, La Taza de Cafe had a going-away party in early July but Daniel will re-surface sometime next month at Cafe Rioja on Telegraph at Ashby. In the meantime, Taste of Joy lost its space on Lakeshore and should re-open sometime next month in the space La Taza just vacated. I stopped by yesterday and took a photo of the mural that's being painted in the front room. Back in March, I wrote about the chef/owner, Brian Hill, who is a graduate of the San Francisco Culinary Academy and am pleased to see he was able to find another location in the neighborhood--especially one that has so much space, character and a full kitchen. Please stay tuned for an opening date.
Further down Grand at 3639, a brand new venture called Smart Herbs and Teas has just opened. It's a sisters' act owned and operated by Marva and Jeanie Cadle who decided they'd rather not retire and chose instead to share their life-long passion--their love of teas and medicinal herbs learned at their mother's knee. They stock about 75 varieties of bulk teas and medicinal herbs plus some spices and teapots thrown in for good measure. Currently, brewed teas are not available, but they will be offering free tastings today from 10 to 6 and tomorrow from 10 to 5. I spent quite a bit of time talking with them earlier in the week about life and growing older, but mostly about teas and ended up with a black tea called "Monk's Blend". If you're of a mind to support locally owned, independent businesses, do stop by to introduce yourself.
Grand Lake Copy which has been on the west side of Grand for many years has just moved across the street. New address is 3602. They're right next door to the space that now provides private mail boxes and Fex-Ex drop-off services.
The GLRAG Retail Attraction Committee which continues to lobby for new businesses that meet the criteria defined in last year's community survey will be meeting next Monday at 7:00 pm. If you're interested in attending or want more information, please contact committee chair, Madeleine Loh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rose Garden Celebration September 12
As most of you may know, Tora Rocha is the city gardener who has been assigned to the Morcom Rose Garden for the past couple of years where she has been overseeing its continuing restoration. When the city laid off about 25% of its parks maintenance staff and added about nine other sites to her job description, you might have expected Tora to throw up her hands in disgust and say "screw you"--which would have been my reaction under the same circumstances. Fortunately for us, Tora is continuing to defy all odds and is pursuing a variety of projects. Her efforts at the Rose Garden will be culminating in a big celebration on September 12 that they are billing as "From Woodstock to Rootstock". The name stems from the confusion that was generated in some minds by discussions about one of the primary tasks at the Rose Garden--cutting off the dead blooms which is technically called "Deadheading". In keeping with this theme, tie-dyed vests for all the certified, Deadheaders will be unveiled on the 12th. It will also be the occasion for celebrating the debut of their new website.
The celebration on the 12th begins with their regular (2nd Saturday of the month), volunteer work day from 9-1:00 PM to which everyone is invited followed by a big party hosted by Temoor at The Grand Tavern. A lot of people have volunteered their time and services to pull this together. A partial list includes Scola Galleries, Queen, The Grand Tavern, Seventeenth Street Studios, Oaklandish, Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation and Tech Liminal. The latter is Anca Mosoiu's business entity. Anca (who is profiled in the new Oakland Magazine) is the brains behind the website and also coordinated tie-dying of the Deadheaders' vests.
When you're on Grand, check out the triangle at the freeway entrance and the city parking lot between Grand and Walker. A big contingent of volunteers under the direction of GLRAG's Eric Hughes with co-sponsorship from GABA, the Grand Avenue Breakfast Club and Grand Lake Neighbors worked most of Saturday weeding, pruning and raking. Support from the Public Works Department was also key to the success of their efforts.
The second edition of Lakefest was very well attended and received excellent reviews.
The Grand Avenue Business Association has received a small grant--part of which will fund a kiosk in Splash Pad Park that will contain a business directory for Grand Avenue and most likely, Lakeshore, as well. We'd love to hear from any architects, contractors or skilled carpenters willing and able to donate your services to make this happen. If you're interested, please email me at email@example.com.
Splash Pad Newsletter Subscriptions
If you have friends, relatives, neighbors or co-workers who may be interested in today's newsletter, please send them this link: http://www.splashpad.org/mostrecent.html. If they choose to do so, they can then subscribe by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.